Given the huge impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic throughout the world, programs that emphasize education and prevention have been critical since the initial identification of the virus and its routes of transmission.
In the previous weeks, we have focused on articles discussing the significant populations and target groups that much of the funding and manpower of public health groups has been attributed to. We have also learned how skewed many of these programs are toward altering specific behaviors. Statistical data on the distributions of infected individuals, the rates and geographical patterns of transmission and the lack of available preventative measures have all contributed heavily to determining where resources are sent and how they are used.
HIV prevention programs can have a global impact on changing risk behaviors, if they are instigated intensely with sufficient funding and cultural competency (Holgrave 134). Based on CDC studies, there are specific measures that can be placed into affect in order to maximize the efficiency of HIV prevention programs economically and socially. As of 2006, the CDC estimated that over 350,000 infections had been prevented since prevention programs had gone into affect, averting over $125 billion in medical costs (Fenton 3).
Although studies primarily focused on the United States, the results can be applied globally. Research has shown that the best prevention programs have emphasized and achieved changes in behavior by encouraging entire community participation to share responsibility for prevention efforts. They have focused on the specific needs of the community in which they are instigated, offering resources for all individuals at risk but focusing outreach activities on primary needs. Successful preventative measures must be conveyed in manner that is culturally accessible, understandable and linguistically specific. The audience of each planned initiative should be outlined in advance and both the objectives and mechanisms for attaining them should be presented openly. In addition to these components, successful initiatives must also have sufficient resources. Prevention programs must have sufficient financial backing, as well as human and material resources, to follow through with interventions in the community. In addition, programs must be designed to create success. At risk individuals must feel inspired to implement risk-reducing behaviors and have those changes be physically and emotionally attainable. They must be taught the skills necessary to change (Holgrave 4).
After 3 decades of HIV prevention programs in the United States the CDC is still developing prevention programs. Although the transmission of HIV in the U.S. has decreased significantly, there are over a million individuals living with HIV. Prevention has expanded to include promotion of testing centers along with educational programs for individuals living with HIV. Previous partner notification initiatives and multi-STI screening opportunities have become highly available. In addition, free condom distribution and needle exchange programs have been implemented through out the country (Fenton 5).
Although the United States is financially more inclined to promote these prevention programs in an attempt to avoid the eventual costs of healthcare, these kinds of initiatives could be instigated elsewhere with great success. The key points are to recognize the importance of cultural intricacies and the promotion of attainable behavioral changes.
Fenton, Kevin, et al. HIV Prevention in the United States. At a critical crossroads. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Holtgrave, David R., Noreen L. Qualls, James W. Curran, Ronald O. Valdiserri, Mary E. Guinan, and William C. Parra. An overview of the effectiveness and efficiency of HIV prevention programs. Public Health Report 1995